Cognitive Soccer: No Ball Training

What do you mean no ball! Yes, I mean this is a real soccer game but without the ball. Let me explain. Start with two teams lined up ready to play, but of course using an imaginary ball. As one team kicks off the game (with the imaginary ball) and keeps possession, the other team defends. How do you know which player has the ball? Pay close attention to the details, starting with the player kicking off the ball and everything will become clear. The player in possession of the ball will show you everything you need to know; you will quickly recognize everything happening off the ball as well, eventually even your ability to anticipate the play will get better.

The defending team must react to the play but they cannot intercept the ball. However, the coach can yell out “turnover” while shouting the new player’s shirt number that has regained the ball. The player that has regained possession from the coach’s command will start the counter attack. Players will also be given a few keywords they can use to help in the playing and reading of the game. Player’s on the team in possession can yell – 1-touch or turn, while the defensive team players can use the commands: step, hold, drop, shift right and shift left. If a player shoots it will be up to the coach to decide if the player has scored, shot wide, had the shot deflected or the keeper made the save.


What is the real purpose of this exercise you might ask? It’s simple really. It works on improving the player’s ability to stay attentive and focused for every second of the game, while being forced to notice details. Any top coach will tell you that the difference between winning and losing might be as small as one or two lapses of concentration in the game. This exercise forces player’s to pay attention to the visual cues, which lead to an improved ability to anticipate the play.


For all the cognitive exercises I create there is extensive scientific research that backs up the design of the exercise. This particular exercise is also based upon research on elite athletes scanning frequency patterns, scanning location patterns and the coupling of visual cues.


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